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And old in villainy. Permit us try
His stubbornness against the torture's force.
Pris. O, gentle lady! by your lord's dear life, Which these weak hands, 1 swear, did ne'er assail; And by your children's welfare, spare my age! Let not the iron tear my ancient joints, And my grey hairs bring to the grave with pain.
Lady Rand. Account for these; thine own they
For these, I say: be stedfast to the truth;
Detected falsehood is most certain death.
[ANNA removes the Servants and returns.
Pris. Alas! I'm sore beset! let never man,
For sake of lucre, sin against his soul!
Eternal justice is in this most just!
I, guiltless now, must former guilt reveal.
Lady Rand. O! Anna, hear !—Once more I
charge thee speak
The truth direct: for these to me foretell
And certify a part of thy narration;
With which, if the remainder tallies not,
An instant and a dreadful death abides thec.
Pris. Then, thus adjured, I'll speak to you as just
As if you were the minister of heaven,
Sent down to search the secret sins of men.
Some eighteen years ago, I rented land
Of brave Sir Malcolm, then Balarmo's lord;
But falling to decay, his servants seized
All that I had, and then turn'd me and mine
(Four helpless infants and their weeping mother,)
Out to the mercy of the winter winds.
A little hovel by the river's side
Received us: there hard labour, and the skill
In fishing, which was formerly my sport,
Supported life. Whilst thus we poorly lived,
One stormy night, as I remember well,
The wind and rain beat hard upon our roof:
Red came the river down, and loud and oft
The angry spirit of the water shriek'd.
At the dead hour of night was heard the cry
Of one in jeopardy. I rose, and ran
To where the circling eddy of a pool,
Beneath the ford, used oft to bring within
My reach whatever floating thing the stream
Had caught. The voice was ceased; the person
lost: But, looking sad and earnest on the waters,
By the moon's light I saw, whirl'd round and round,
A basket: soon I drew it to the bank,
And nestled curious there an infant lay.
Lady Rand. Was he alive?
Pris. He was.
Lady Rand. Inhuman that thou art! How could'st thou kill what waves and tempests spared?
Pris. I was not so inhuman.
Lady Rand. Didst thou not?
Anna. My noble mistress, you are moved too
This man has not the aspect of stern murder;
Let him go on, and you, I hope, will hear
Good tidings of your kinsman's long lost child.
Pris. The needy man who has known better
One whom distress has spited at the world,
Is he whom tempting fiends would pitch upon
To do such deeds, as make the prosperous men
Lift up their hands, and wonder who could do
And such a man was I; a man declined,
Who saw no end of black adversity:
Yet, for the wealth of kingdoms, I would not
Have touch'd that infant with a hand of harm.
Lady Band. Ha! dost thou say so? Then per-
haps he lives!
Pris. Not many days ago he was alive.
Lady Rand. O God of heaven! Did he then
die so lately?
Pris. I did not say he died; I hope he lives. Not many days ago these eyes beheld Him, flourishing in youth, and health, and beauty. Lady Rand. Where is he now? Pris. Alas! I know not where. Lady Rand. Oh, fate! I fear thee still. Thou
Direct and clear; else I will search thy soul. Anna. Permit me, ever honour'd! Keen impatience,
Though hard to be restrain'd, defeats itself.—
Pursue thy story with a faithful tongue,
To the last hour that thou didst keep the child.
Pris. Fear not my faith, though I must speak
Within the cradle where the infant lay
Was stow'd a mighty store of gold and jewels;
Tempted by which, we did resolve to hide,
From all the world, this wonderful event,
And like a peasant breed the noble child.
That none might mark the change of our estate,
We left the country, travell'd to the north,
Bought flocks and herds, and gradually brought
Our secret wealth. But God's all-seeing eye
Beheld our avarice, and smote us sore:
For one by one all our own children died,
And he, the stranger, sole remain'd the heir
Of what indeed was his. Fain then would I,
Who with a father's fondness loved the boy,
Have trusted him, now in the dawn of youth,
With his own secret: but my anxious wife,
Foreboding evil, never would consent.
Meanwhile the stripling grew in years and beauty;
And, as we oft observed, he bore himself,
Not as the offspring of our cottage blood;
For nature will break out: mild with the mild,
But with the froward he was fierce as fire,
And night and day he talk'd of war and arms.
I set myself against his warlike bent?
But all in vain: for when a desperate band
Of robbers from the savage mountains came——